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The Family System

Posted May 12, 2015
to: Musings

Family Tree

I believe that the family system is often the root of healthy functioning. Many times, there is a generational component to trauma where there are “skeletons in the closet” that have been covered for years and even throughout generations, often unconsciously. The children and families who are struggling with generational trauma continue to bare the burden from the previous generation, and as a result youth and families have learned to apply coping skills to survive. Unfortunately these coping skills can become unhealthy and dangerous (i.e., substance abuse, eating disorders, self-harm, and domestic violence)..

By applying the use of art therapy/expressive arts and evidence-based counseling techniques, the counseling session will allow you to explore and address trauma and other diagnosis in a safe and explorative therapeutic space with trained and professional guidance. This form of counseling allows movement through various diagnosis: allowing you to:

  1. Approach difficult subjects.
  2. Identify the trauma.
  3. Identify the way you have learned to cope with the trauma (maladaptive coping).
  4. Remove or replace the maladaptive behavior with positive coping skills.
  5. Have an increased awareness about yourself in connection to your family system.

I hold no judgment towards your past and current life and lifestyle. I am frank and upfront, honest and empathetic in my assessments and work with each individual, family, and couple. I believe that you know yourself and your family more than any clinician can begin to; by listening, providing a supportive and safe environment, and applying expressive art/and evidence based counseling, exploration and healing can begin! Whether you have participated in counseling before or this is your first time, I encourage you to take a step to positive change by finding out more about art therapy and counseling. I look forward to speaking with you to answer any questions you may have, and to schedule a time to meet. You can contact me by phone or email, or via my online contact form, whichever is easiest for you! Your call and email are confidential.

I also believe in working as a team with outside providers (doctors, psychiatrists, schools/educators, family members) in order to provide full comprehensive care. I am culturally and spiritually sensitive to the needs and beliefs of you and your family.

Eating Disorders

Posted January 18, 2013
to: Musings

Eating disorders are complex, as they are both a psychological and medical illness. There is a range of eating disorders, which include: Anorexia Nervosa (in which there are two subcatagories: restricting and binge/purge), Bulimia Nervosa, Food Phobia, and EDNOS (Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified).

All of the above are serious and potentially life threatening disorders. If caught in the early stages, eating disorders are much easier to treat, but often, when found in the later stages, more intensive interventions are necessary. These may include: medical interventions, hospitalization and inpatient treatment. It is necessary to medically stabilize the indiviual before outpatient counseling can begin.

There are many myths and misnomers in regards to eating disorders; these myths lead to stigma around this illness, keeping those who are suffering with or family and friends who may be witnessing a loved-one showing signs of an eating disorder, to not take action...or take action too late.

There is so much information, both truthful and false, out in cyberspace regarding eating disorders. Education is key! Many families blame themselves for their child's illness...and unfortunately outsiders may blame the family. This is a complete falsehood! Eating disorders are NOT caused by parents. Also, people may accuse the individual suffering from this diagnosis, saying that the individual "wanted" to have an eating disorder. Again, another falsehood. No one chooses this illness.

So what needs to happen? Depending on the severity, type, and history of the individual, medical stabilization/hospitalization, inpatient treatment, day-treatment/outpatient treatment/counseling, education, medical and psychological treatment, art and expressive movement, and family support are just some of the treatments that are and can be used to save someones life. This is an illness where you can't give up, where compassion and perseverance are necessary!

Above, I listed art therapy/creative expression within the treatments used when working with someone with an eating disorder. As an art therapist, I believe that having a creative/expressive outlet for the patient and family is essential. As with many other diagnosis, applying the use of art and expression can be extremely helpful in giving the individual a voice when there are no words. The individual has already begun to change and morph their body, which in a sense, is an expression and a way of communicating to others (though the individual may not be conscious of this at the time). Art allows for a safe bridge between the individual struggling with an eating disorder to begin to have a dialogue with themselves, their families, as well as their caretakers/providers/counselors and medical team. Art allows for a safe space where healing can begin.

I have only touched on the very tip of all the information there is on eating disorders, within this blog. There is so much information, that I can not even begin to do it justice, but I believe that this is an important topic and that there needs to be more discussion about it...to bring it out of the closet and shake off some of its untruths and stigma! The exciting piece for me, is that there is continuing research on eating disorders. I do believe that the more we are all educated about diagnosis and illnesses (whether it be mental illness, emotional, or physical illness) the sooner and more successfully we can treat them!

Below are some resources and information that will help to educate you further:

American Art Therapy Association - Eating Disorders Toolkit
A discussion on the use of art therapy to help treat eating disorders.
"Art therapy has been found to be extremely effective with clients with eating disorders, as it facilitates greater awareness of thwarted needs, desires, and distresses and provides simultaneously, a metaphorical and concrete outlet for expression that promotes a greater emotional vocabulary, both visually and verbally. It is a way to meet clients where they are, in an honoring way."
Michelle L. Dean, MA, ATR-­?BC, LPC, CGP, DVATA HLM

Art Therapy Blog
A resource I often review and enjoy reading about using creative healing through art! The article, "Eating Disorder Therapy Through Art" uses a survival story regarding a personal story from a young lady who battled her way through an eating disorder and and used art and creativity to heal.

Kartini Clinic for Disordered Eating, Portland OR.

"Kartini Clinic is a medical and mental health treatment facility dedicated exclusively to the treatment of eating disorders in children and young adults. We take a medical approach to the treatment of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or food phobia, as well as those whose disordered eating contributes to obesity or wasting conditions."

Kartini Eating Disorder Blog
This blog is written by Dr. Julie O'Toole, the founder and current medical director of the Kartini Clinic in Portland OR.

F.E.A.S.T. - Families Empowered And Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders

"F.E.A.S.T. is an international organization of and for parents and caregivers to help loved ones recover from eating disorders by providing information and mutual support, promoting evidence-based treatment, and advocating for research and education to reduce the suffering associated with eating disorders."

NEDA or National Eating Disorder Association

"The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) is the leading non-profit organization in the United States advocating on behalf of and supporting individuals and families affected by eating disorders. Reaching millions every year, we campaign for prevention, improved access to quality treatment, and increased research funding to better understand and treat eating disorders. We work with partners and volunteers to develop programs and tools to help everyone who seeks assistance."


Being Present

Posted November 08, 2012
to: Musings

So often in our busy world, we often forget (or even think about) being "present" or simply, being in the moment. In our rush-rush-rush we often live on auto-pilot, buzzing through our day thinking about what we need to do or what happened yesterday. Reflecting on the past as well as planning for the future is fine, and so often a must, but so often we forget to enjoy the present moment.

While in school, I took part in an exercise on "being present", for at least 5 minutes a day. Now, I thought this was a pretty silly exercise, until I attempted it! Every morning for 2 weeks, I opened the curtains in our old adobe home that my husband and I were living in at the time. There was an entire wall of windows on one side of our home, so I practiced being present with the task of letting in the sun every morning. I had no idea how often I would let my mind wander! So I practiced feeling the fabric of the curtains, watching as they crinkled as I pulled them together, feeling the sun warm my face as I pulled the curtains back and tying them with ribbon. It took me several days to start getting the swing of it, and I often caught my mind wandering off, so I would gently nudge it back to the task at hand to help teach my mind and my body to be present, to be in the moment.

I challenge you to try this exercise and see how you do with it; whether you do this when your folding laundry, working outside in the garden, art making, exercising, cooking, eating, or playing with your children, try being present for 5 minutes. It's more challenging than you think!

Check out my fellow colleagues who talk about the art of being present:


Your True Self... Finding Who You Really Are

Posted September 13, 2012
to: Musings

The moment we come into this world we are labeled and handed expectations by the folks around us (sometimes even before we're born). An few examples of this, "He's got that moody artist thing going", or "We knew from the beginning that she was meant to be a lawyer, with all the arguing she does!" These statements may have had some truth to them at some point, but when used repeatedly, not only do the folks who say these statements really start to believe in these labels that they've handed out, but the person being labeled starts to believe in them too...and then takes on this label/role.

When I work with folks, a lot of the time I ask them the question, "Who are you? Tell me about your true self". I usually get responses such as, "I'm a mother" or "I'm a student", etc., etc. These are things you do, titles, responsibilities. What I'm talking about is that piece of you, waaaay inside of you. It's pushed back with the rest of the baggage we create, take on, and carry inside of ourselves. (There's probably even some cobwebs covering it!)

Your true self is what YOU believe in way down inside of your soul. It's what you are passionate about, what you believe in, how YOU define yourself. It's so easy to allow people to define us and to define ourselves. Ever hear a parent or an adult say, "She's the smart one" or "He's a troublemaker". These labels begin to cover our true selves. We believe in these labels, want to live up to them to make people happy, or go along with the labels because it is the safest thing to do at the time. Culture, environment, religion, spirituality, gender, where we live, economics/class, society, relationships, fear, etc., etc. all play a role in the definitions we are given and how we learn to define ourselves.

In our teen years, so many folks are trying to fit in with everyone else. Or, they are trying to be different than everyone else, but that turns into being like all of the other folks who are trying to be "different"! Certainly our teens and 20's are for trying those labels on and walking around in them, but sometimes we forget to take them off when we realize they don't fit, are too tight, too loose, or are just too scratchy!

By the time we get into our 20's, we're well on the way to charting a path, that for many of us, was defined by our family, our friends, teachers, and society as a whole. We're so busy trying to become who we think we should be, that we've actually lost all sense of ourselves and have pushed our true self way, way down. Sometimes, our true self tries to get our attention. When we don't listen, it can either lay dormant for years, while we wonder why we feel like there is something that is missing in our lives, or it shows up disguised as a "mid-life crisis" (which seems to be happening to folks earlier and earlier these days). I've observed and worked with folks who have retired. At this point in their lives, they finally have a moment to reflect and really listen to themselves, their "true selves"; and with this comes a sense of peace.

We are constantly changing who we are and how we present ourselves to the world, and to ourselves. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this! It's how we keep going in this world. We are so busy with our careers, family, and obligations that few of us have the luxury (or time, lets face it!) to really "listen". I have had the privilege of witnessing moments with folks I work with who are able to strip away the layers of labels and begin to take a look at their true selves. This can be tough, exhausting, and lengthy work, but it can also be rewarding, exciting, and life changing!

Notice how busy and noisy our world can get, both outside and inside our heads. Take 5 minutes and begin to notice that little piece of you that relaxes when you take a breath, when you close your eyes, and when you really listen to your true self. I'm sure it has plenty to say!

Art therapy techniques I use with folks regarding this topic, and additional information from fellow Art Therapists and Artists with their approach to these techniques:

Mandala Work, works as a type of safety net providing supporting containment for your work, especially when first beginning this type of self-exploration. Cathy Malchiodi, one of the current leaders and important contributors in today's art therapy world, discusses Mandalas further in this article. Cathy's work can be followed on her site at http://www.cathymalchiodi.com

Collage Work, which can help take some of the pressure off when you're feeling stuck, allowing your unconscious to take the wheel. http://www.arttherapyblog.com is an interesting place to explore art therapy techniques and look a little deeper into the world of art therapy. Here is a good article on Getting Creative with Collages.

Journal Writing and Art Journaling, another expressive way to tap-in and listen using writing and art making. Artist, Art Therapist, and Blogger Kelley Luckett discusses her process on her blog: http://artjournaling.blogspot.com

Mask Making, this is done towards the middle/end of this inner journey, a way to honor your true self. Sara Roizen, Fine Artist, Art Therapist, and Blogger discusses the mask making process further. Her blog, http://www.arttherapyspot.com/ is full of interesting and inspirational insight into the world of art and art therapy. She reviews mask making in this blog post.

Every Art Therapist practices and applies art therapy techniques in their own way, using their own processes and addressing the needs of the folks they are working with. I enjoy seeing what techniques my fellow art therapists are practicing and thought it would be interesting for you to take a look as well! Enjoy!


Hollywood Gets Involved

Posted August 13, 2012
to: Musings

While watching television the other night, I stumbled across a commercial with Glenn Close. She was wearing a t-shirt that said “sister” across it and was walking next to another woman with a t-shirt reading “bipolar”. I was instantly intrigued! I went to the website that evening and discovered that Glenn had founded a national anti-stigma campaign for mental illness. She partnered with The Balanced Mind Foundation, Fountain House, and Garen & Shari Staglin of the International Mental Health Research Organization (IMHRO). Glenn has a sister with Bipolar disorder, and a nephew who has also been diagnosed with mental illness.

The mission statement of this organization is, “Working together to erase the stigma and discrimination of mental illness”. Their website, www.bringchange2mind.org has a lot of great information regarding mental health. Other stars became involved, including Ron Howard, who directed the organization’s first PSA, and John Mayer, who donated his song, “Say”, to the PSA’s soundtrack.

Madness and Creativity are linked, and there is research that supports this idea. Hollywood is also full of creativity and madness. Although mental illness is still stigmatized, it is refreshing to see someone who has popular media influence use it to help teach and support mental health advocacy.

Sometimes it helps to know that “famous” people are just as human as everyone else. Below are just a few examples of famous Hollywood Stars who have revealed that they have and have gone through the experience of living with mental illness:

Catherine Zeta-Jones - Bipolar Disorder
Mel Gibson - Bipolar Disorder
Brooke Shields - Postpartum Depression
Carrie Fisher - Bipolar Disorder
Emma Thompson - Depression
Paula Deen - Panic Attacks and Agorphobia
Elton John - Substance Abuse and Bulimia
Sinead O’Connor - Bipolar Disorder
Ben Stiller - Bipolar Disorder
Sting - Bipolar Disorder
Robin Williams - Bipolar Disorder
Jim Carey - Bipolar Disorder
Robert Downey Fr. - Bipolar Disorder

The more people get involved about getting the word out about mental health, the more that can be done to help improve the lives of those who struggle with it!


On Working with Teenagers and Families

Posted August 03, 2012
to: Musings

When I tell people I’m an art therapist, I usually get the question, “So you work with kids?” Sure, I have worked with “kids” (preschool to tweens), but over the past several years I have grown to have a propensity for teens and families. This population is a far cry from who I originally thought I was going to be working with (Senior Citizens) when I first set out on my path to becoming an art therapist and counselor. But working with teens and their families, both in outpatient settings and then in inpatient settings, really allowed me to see how this population is misunderstood. These teens and families are real fighters and through the many obstacles they have encountered, I am always taken aback by their strength to pick themselves up and to keep going!

Teens are so often labeled by adults. But these adolescents also label themselves; often to fit in and sometimes just so they can survive. I think it’s easy to say, “Oh, it’s too late for him/her” or “they’ll just end up in jail...the system can deal with them now”. But every teen and every family I have ever worked with has had a story to tell. A story of strength, heartbreak, trauma, love, hard work, loss...I could go on and on. I have been witness to teens and their families tell and work through their stories through the application of art therapy because for the first time someone is willing to be witness to their story without judgement.

So many times there are generational stories that repeat themselves over and over. A large part of my work with teens and their families is to have them tell their stories. This allows the family and the teen to begin to unload the burden they have been holding onto. The family stories also teach, so that the next generation can begin to recognize and break out of negative cycles.

Storytelling through the use of art therapy, allows the family and teen to have a safe place to use and manipulate art media so that they can express feelings and experiences that oftentimes do not have words. Every teen and family is different, so every media that I choose for the story to be told in (i.e., paint, collage, photography, clay, etc.) is chosen for a reason to help support the teens and families therapeutically. It IS possible for teens and families to break through the generational pain and begin a new story of hope, health, and promise!


Uncovering Humanity in a Fog of Stigma

Posted July 07, 2012
to: Musings

Stigma from a mental illness can be devastating. It is based out of fear and lack of understanding. When most people think of mental illness, their thoughts go straight to the fictional characters in television, movies, and even the 11:00 news with its hyped-up features. Too often, stigma regarding mental illness takes over rationality. Society (especially those who are uneducated about mental health/illness) have a tendency to exhibit an intolerance and an aversion to mental illness; sometimes acting as if they can “catch-it” if they get too close to “that” person.

It seems that it is easier for people to understand a physical disability. Because they can "see" it with their own eyes; they can make sense of it. With mental illness, people usually only see the side effects of the illness, making it difficult for them to make sense of it. They can’t see inside the brain of the person with mental illness, whose neurotransmitters aren’t firing right and therefore aren’t able to communicate to the brain properly. They don’t know about the trauma that may have played a role in triggering the mental illness. They don’t know that this person had been biologically susceptible to mental illness. They don’t know the whole story and because of this, they may make it much more difficult for that person to seek help, or even acknowledge that something is not right. It can be very easy for individuals, families, spouses and friends, and sometimes even doctors, to discount moods of the person who is struggling with mental illness.

If I could shout this from the roof tops, I would... mental illness is not the end to one’s life! With the right supports, mental stabilization and wellbeing are achievable. Some of the interventions/supports for folks with mental illness include but are not limited to: medical interventions including hospitalization for stabilization when/if needed and pharmacological/medication. There is also the important component of psychosocial treatments which may include: psychotherapy/counseling (including expressive therapies/art therapy), family therapy, education, and group and community supports.

This is not to say that living with and treating mental illness is always easy, rather it can be a long and winding road. There are so many feelings that someone living with mental illness may experience: including anger, fear, shame, loss, and confusion, just to name a few. People they knew and trusted may fall off the face of the earth, others may become overly protective to a fault. Others may place labels on them, including, “He’s a Schizophrenic” or “She’s an anorexic” or “He’s bipolar”. Even the way one refers to mental illness can stigmatize! People and children (I’ve seen this first hand) are labeled by professionals, by the community, and by family. This labeling may eventually lead to folks with mental illness labeling themselves. I will never forget when I heard a child introduce themselves to me as a diagnosis, rather than giving me their name. It was heartbreaking. Though society is still learning, I feel it is shameful and indefensible for people who are in the profession to lose touch with humanity and treat people like illnesses and diagnosis, rather than human beings. This is why education, not only for society but for those in the medical and mental health profession, is imperative.

There are many, many people living with mental illness. So often, we hear the negative and rarely hear about the triumphs. I would like to refer to two inspirational and brave women who have lived and are living with mental illness. Both of these women wrote about their experiences with mental illness and I highly recommend reading their autobiographies. I feel that both of these books, through the narrative of their life experiences, bring a touch of humanity to their diagnosis. Both women have won numerous awards, are prolific writers, educators and advocates for folks with mental illness; including Manic Depression/Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia.

An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness, by Kay Redfield Jamison, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 1995

The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness, by Elyn Saks, Hyperion Books, 2007

In closing, I would like to leave you with this thought...
Hold onto humanity. When you are are unsure of what you see before you, this is the time to educate yourself, reducing your fear and allowing for compassion.


My Path to Art Therapy

Posted July 02, 2012
to: Musings

I was asked a great series of questions the other day, “My 16 year old is considering art therapy as a career path. Are there courses that you would recommend? Are there colleges that we should be visiting? What majors should she be looking at? How many years of college/graduate school would it take? How many years of residency? Is a PHD required? Are there different requirements to become an art therapist? What are the steps to take from high school to owning your own practice?”

All great questions! So here are my thoughts on the above. Everyone’s path is different, which makes the field so interesting. Everyone pursues a career in art therapy for their own reasons, whether they’ve worked with an art therapist themselves, experienced personal or family difficulties, mental illness, or medical illness, experienced heartache or just believe in the power of healing through art! I could go on and on, but the reasons one becomes an art therapist are endless, just as the path to becoming an art therapist is personal and there is no “right way” to do it!

Every state is different in regards to art therapy and what one needs in regards to practicing as an art therapist. It is also a personal choice whether one wants to pursue registration (ATR) and credentialing in art therapy (ATR-BC), and Art Therapy Certified Supervisor (ATCS). But let me back up a little...to the education piece first.

Speaking for myself, my path to becoming an art therapist started with the pursuit of a Fine Art Degree. I have always had an affinity for art and so I studied art and theatre design in my undergraduate schooling as well as post graduation. I graduated with a B.A. in Costume Design with a Minor in Fine Art. After graduation (like many of us do) I tried out many different jobs, though almost all pertaining to the arts. I eventually moved to NYC and worked as a milliner (hat maker). I have a wide variety of experiences as an artist and as a human being, which I believe has allowed me to be a better therapist, having some life-experience under my belt prior to pursuing my Master’s Degree in Art Therapy. Taking time off before pursuing schooling and a career in Art Therapy is not necessarily needed, as everyone has a different life experience. Some of my school colleagues began their undergrad degree in the pursuit of becoming an art therapist, so went straight from their undergrad to graduate school. Many of us had taken time off from school, so there were folks in my classes of all ages (ages 21 to folks in their 60’s) with all different life experiences. This made for a much richer educational experience in my opinion! People in my classes were there because they wanted to be there and they came from all over the U.S. and from other Countries as well.

Finding the Right Fit - Deciding on a Graduate Program

I’m getting ahead of myself, so I’ll back up a little further. Because I took time off between my undergraduate schooling and returning to school, I had to take prerequisite classes prior to applying to art therapy programs. There are a certain number of studio art classes and psychology classes that one needs to take in undergraduate school in order to graduate from an art therapy program (though depending on the graduate program, you may not necessarily need to complete these classes prior to attending graduate school, just as long as you have taken them by the time you graduate from your graduate program). My suggestion would be to look at graduate programs in art therapy during your undergrad program or when you begin to take a look at returning to school and find out what specific credits you need in fine art and in psychology.

For myself, I researched art therapy programs while pursuing my prerequisite classes. Again, every program is different. I attended SouthWestern College in Santa Fe, so I needed abnormal psychology. developmental psychology, and two psychology electives. The Art Therapy/Counseling Program at SouthWestern also required at least 18 credit hours of undergraduate studio coursework which includes: painting, drawing, ceramics, 3D art, and two studio electives. Also, if one decides they want to pursue an Art Therapy Degree after they’ve graduated from an undergrad program, but did not major in art or psychology, never fear! There are Master’s programs that will still take you, who will still accept your B.A. or B.S. in any field as long as it is from an accredited institution.

Because every program is different, I found myself still needing a pottery/ wheel/sculpture class. I was still accepted into Southwestern’s program and ended up taking the studio art class at the local community college in Santa Fe during the Summer, while still attending the Master’s program at Southwestern College. I was not alone in this, as several of my fellow classmates were completing their needed studio art classes as well! But again, I can not stress enough, every program is different.

There is also the question of the GRE or entrance exams; not every school requires this, so depending on how you feel about these tests this does not have to be a barrier for you. (For me personally, I was very excited about this, as I am a poor test taker though have always excelled academically).

My state has several art therapy programs but I moved out of state specifically to attend Southwestern College. “WHY???” you may ask. It was a good fit for me personally. I spent a lot of time looking for the right fit. It’s not just about will the school accept you, but will you accept the school? This is the first important step for your career path as an art therapist, and everyone approaches the area of psychology with a personal mind-set in how they want to practice. i.e., treatment approach. For me, I believe in a humanistic and psychodynamic approach...and I felt that this specific school embraced these.

I also went to several schools in person, to narrow down my choices. My thought on this, “If I’m going to be spending intensive time and money on schooling, then it needs to be right for me”. There was a school that sounded perfect on paper but when I went for a visit, it just didn’t feel right. When I went to Southwestern College, I knew that that school was for me! Southwestern College is experiential, holistic, transformative, and person- centered. They really open up the space for one to look at their selves during their time in this program. This school and program made me step outside of my box many times, which I believe because of my unique educational experience at Southwestern College, I have a different awareness and approach to the practice of art therapy and psychotherapy. I was also able to complete a certificate program in Grief, Loss & Trauma during my time at Southwestern, which further enhanced my experience. They have several speciality certificate programs to choose from if you are interested in pursing further knowledge in the field of counseling. Please check out Southwestern Colleges website for further questions at, www.swc.edu. The mission of Southwestern College is “Transforming Consciousness Through Education”. Consciousness, as understood at Southwestern College, is the capacity and willingness to live life with intentionality and the highest possible level of awareness regarding our personal, social and spiritual purpose for being here.

Again, I need to stress that the graduate school you attend is truly a personal choice. So start googling art therapy schools, as well as reviewing the sites: www.atcb.org and www.arttherapy.org.

An important piece that I don’t want to forget, school accreditation. I highly recommend attending a school that has been approved by the American Art Therapy Association. This will make it much easier/smoother, for you when (if) you decide to pursue your ATR or your ATR-BC. Not every school is accredited (or keeps up to date on their accreditation) so make sure you double check.

The Graduate Program and Its Structure

How long does schooling take? I took the full-time track, so I finished in 2 years, which included my practicum and internship. Many of my other classmates did part-time. It all depends on what’s going on in your life, finances, and what you want to do. The great thing is that you have choices! Every school is different, some programs are 3 years full time, depending on their curriculum.

So you may ask, “What is practicum and what is an internship?” Practicum was in my second year and lasted 6 months (two quarters), where I attended classes as well as began providing counseling and art therapy to individuals, families, and groups at the Southwestern Counseling Center in Santa Fe, which is connected to Southwestern College.

My internship was my last 6 months (two quarters) where I provided counseling while under the supervision of Southwestern and an in-state ATR Supervisor. (Side note: I’m currently supervising an art therapy/ counseling student during their internship and am enjoying the experience of giving back. I was quite lucky and blessed to have landed an amazing in-state ATR Supervisor during my internship, so I remember being on the other side of things). At Southwestern, the students are able to do their internship out of state, so my husband and I returned to our home in Oregon. I interned at a non-profit agency that provided subacute mental health services to children and teens as well as a day treatment program. I had not worked with children and teens prior to my internship. It was during this time that I found that I loved working with teens and families and I would never had known that if I hadn’t jumped in and tried working with a population that I hadn’t worked with before. During my time at this program, budget cuts were happening and the program was changing (this seems the norm for non-profit mental health)...all part of the politics in the world of health care and especially mental health.

I knew going into my internship that my goal was to pursue credentialing and licensure. Which meant that I would pursue my ATR (Registered Art Therapist) and LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor). This is a personal choice and I’ve worked with many therapists/counselors/social workers who have not pursued registration or licensure. For me, it made sense because I knew that I eventually wanted to have my own private practice; which you don’t need your license for in Oregon but there are stipulations to this which you can check on at: www.oregon.gov

Working towards Licensure

There was an inquiry in regards to “residency”. This is a little different in the counseling world compared to the medical/doctor world. But I feel that the word “residency” summed up my experience while I worked towards my ATR and especially my LPC. There are requirements for both, which include many, many hours in the field, both working directly with clients and indirectly (paperwork, social work, etc.). For the LPC, I needed 2,400 supervised direct client contact hours, the masters educational component, indirect hours, and the examination. There are very specific rules and requirements for acquiring you LPC. My advice, be sure to review all the rules and requirements prior to pursuing you license. The process is VERY precise and everything must be done exact! Also, every state has different licenses in the mental health field, i.e., LPC, LPCMH, LMHC, LCPC, etc).

For the ATR, it is about your education (this is when it is helpful for you to have graduated from an AATA approved program; if you didn’t you will need to put more hours in to receive your ATR), studio art and psychology hours, direct and non-direct hours, and supervision (no test for this one!) Again, check on the www.atcb.org website for further information.

I know, the letters for the credentialing, licensing, and organizations get a little confusing. Below is clarification taken from the ATCB website, http://www.atcb.org/newsletters/clarifying_the_roles.html

...AATA is a membership organization. AATA is the entity that is responsible for developing and sustaining the profession at large. The mission of the AATA is “to serve its members and the general public by providing standards of professional competence, and developing and promoting knowledge in, and of, the field of art therapy.” www.arttherapy.org

The ATCB is a credentialing body. As a credentialing body, the ATCB creates and maintains standards associated with earning art therapy credentials. The mission of the ATCB is "to protect the public by promoting the competent and ethical practice of art therapy." In response to it’s mission, the ATCB offers three credentials: Registered Art Therapist (ATR), Board-Certified Art Therapist (ATR-BC), and the Art Therapy Certified Supervisor (ATCS).

In my mind, one of the big things for me is that one has a test and the other one doesn’t. (Yes, those darn tests!) But there are other important aspects as well. Further information can be reviewed on both of their websites. But don’t get too overwhelmed, each step is do-able, but you need to take it one step at a time! For myself, I didn’t think too much about pursuing my ATR or my LPC until after graduation, because my main focus was my internship and completing all of the graduation requirements. (And that little nagging concern about finding a job!)

The Real World

For me, there was quite an abrupt shift from graduate school to my internship, to the working world of mental health. Luckily, because of my ATR supervisor during my internship, I had a little heads up to what was to come. I also had ongoing support from a seasoned professional who was able to normalize some of my fears.

Since graduation, I’ve spent a fair amount of time working both in the community as well as working with the residential population. I believe that my training not only as a counselor but as an art therapist has allowed me to serve those in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to without the training and belief in the healing aspects of art therapy.

Today, I have a private practice and hold both an ATR and an LPC. My path to becoming an art therapist has not been a straight and narrow route, and for me, that’s what was meant to happen. On my path, I learned to ask a lot of questions (to a lot of people), find support in those I trusted, take a really deep look into myself, do art, do some more art, balance work and life, and self care. I continued on, even when I doubted myself and felt others doubt my career choice too...because I knew in my heart that I was meant to become an art therapist. Obviously, I didn’t do it for the money (there are many other jobs and careers, often much simpler and easier, that pay much, much, more). I followed this path because I believe in the healing power of art. It’s as simple as that!



Posted June 30, 2012
to: Musings

Welcome to my Blog & Musings. Blogging is new to me, so please bear with me!

I've noticed that I'm often questioned about art therapy. So I'm going to try and address some of the questions I've been asked, as well as touch upon some topics related to the field that have come up for me in the past. Some of the topics I would like to address in my blog & musings are:

  • What is art therapy and why does it work?
  • What are some of the art therapy techniques I use?
  • How do I and others balance life and a counseling career so that I can be present for you, the client, 100%?
  • Why art? What art materials do I use, and why?
  • What types of art therapy or "compartments", so to speak, does art therapy co-exist with? (i.e. sandtray, grief, loss & trauma art therapy, narrative therapy)?

I welcome your questions and/or comments. I do want to be clear that my blog & musings are not to be used as a substitute for therapy. Rather, they're posted in the hopes that you and other folks who read this blog will become a little more familiar with the subject of art therapy and counseling. My goal is to take some of the mystery out of the field of art therapy and counseling and humanize it, so to speak. . . so stay tuned!